Jim Crow Justice
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Accusations of sexual assault against white women were very often the catalyst for the formation of lynch mobs. At times, the rage generated by these accusations could lead to full-scale riots. This photograph shows the corpse of William Brown, who was accused of raping a white woman named Agnes Loebeck in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1919. Despite the efforts of local police to protect Brown in his cell at the Douglas County Court House, a mob of about 4,000 citizens besieged the building on 28 September, eventually setting it on fire in a frenzied rush to capture Brown. Anarchy continued to spread even after Brown was handed over and killed. In addition to Brown, two white men died, Mayor Edward Smith was hanged from a telephone pole (which he survived), the courthouse was destroyed, and numerous other buildings were damaged before federal troops from Fort Omaha and Fort Crook arrived to restore order on the morning of 29 September.